28 May 2010

What can shore lovers do about the oil spill?

A sense of deep helpless outrage is what I feel as the oil spill affects the marinelife on our shores. I just heard that the spill has hit Chek Jawa as well as Changi beach between Carpark 6 and Carpark 7.
Crude hits Tanah Merah, 26 May.

It's impossible to save all the creatures. What should a shore lover do about the situation?

It is wonderful to see large numbers of volunteers wanting to do something about the situation.

But 'cleaning' sea creatures is almost impossible to do without stressing them. And once the oil clogs gills, the animals are probably doomed even if the oil is cleaned off externally. And if we want to 'clean' marine life, we need to use seawater. Freshwater kills marine life, in fact the mass deaths at Chek Jawa in 2007 was probably due to high freshwater input due to long and heavy rains in Johor.

The most beautiful and delicate of marine creatures are impossible to wash or relocate quickly: hard corals, sea anemones, sea fans. Some animals that don't seem worthy of 'saving' such as worms, are actually among the important elements of the shore ecosystem, forming the base of the food chain.

So what is a shore lover to do?

In my opinion, we should document as much as we can. Focusing not just on the distress and death to marine life, but also the amazing diversity life on our shores (from worms to fishes, corals to seagrass) and how the spill is affecting them.

Share the photos and observations as widely as possible, and quickly.

In this way, perhaps more people will realise the following:
  • That we do have wonderful marine life, even in unlikely places such as reclaimed shores and man-made seawalls.

  • That these shores are precious and we should care for them.

  • While we may be helpless in the face of the oil spill, there are MANY other threats to our shores that we CAN manage. We need to control such threats to make sure our shores are in the best of health, so that they can better survive incidents such as the oil spills.
  • Existing threats include: litter than poison and kill our marine life. Abandoned driftnets and fish traps that perpetually kill until they are removed from the shore. Sedimentation that affects water quality and thus the health of our marine animals. Thoughtless construction and works on our shores. Uncontrolled collection of marine life on our shores. Careless recreational use of our shores. More about threats to our marine life.

Hopefully also, more people will realise:
  • We need to protect more shores so that if some shores are hurt, other shores can act as a source of new animals which can settle on and eventually restore the damaged shores.
  • We need to learn more about our shores. The more we know, the better we can care for them.
What other ways can we help?
Besides documenting and sharing your photos and stories of the impact of the oil spill, I feel we can help by going down to sites that may be but are not yet affected. Keep an eye out for first signs of oil or distressed marine life. Alert the authorities if you do spot oil.

From NEA media release, 26 May, also on wildsingapore news:
Members of the public ... can contact our 24-hour call centre at 1800-CALL NEA (2255632) , email: Contact_NEA@nea.gov.sg
Updated 29 May from latest media reports:
The public can contact MPA's 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2489 to report any sighting of oil slick in Singapore's waters or coastlines.
I'm rather concussed from predawn low tide trips, so I'm not very eloquent in this post.

If you have other and better ideas about how we can make a long term difference for our shores and make the best of out this situation, please do leave a comment.

Thank you!


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